10 things you need less of to make your worship service more inclusive

Less is more.

10. Churchy words.  Because they exclude folks who cannot understand them.

9. Bright lights. Because they are overwhelming and over-stimulating.

8. Clutter. Its distracting and looks messy.

7. Words per page. Too many words per page are hard to read and confusing. White space helps the eyes focus on important words.

6. Taking yourself so seriously. Go ahead, laugh.

5. Seats. Make a little room to play and stretch.

4. Instruments. Keep the music light and simple.  Too  many instruments can become like auditory clutter – overstimulating, distracting, and uncomfortable.

3. Volume. Sensory ears are sensitive ears. And we need to hear each other sing. So keep the volume just high enough to support the singing but not high enough to drown everyone out.

2. Judgment. Because we rarely know the whole story. Don’t label others, instead, work to build relationships. Offer plenty of grace. When in doubt, offer grace some more.

1. Misunderstanding and unawareness. Teach your congregation how to reach out, understand,  and love others who may look, act, or speak differently than us.  Special needs are all around us – don’t let not knowing be an excuse for not loving.  Find out what needs are in your congregation or neighborhood and ask what you can do to help and get your congregation on board.

Sample Sermon

Need a good sermon idea for a sensory friendly service?

We recently started a sermon series tited, “Brave,” focusing on the idea that it’s ok to be scared, but being brave is doing the right in spite of our fears and it is God who truly makes us brave. Each week focuses on a different character or set of characters. Of course, we took a stab at covering David and Goliath.

We try to make sure our sermons have a participation element and a tactile element to make them memorable and to support different learning styles and levels of understanding.  And we try to make it a little fun when possible!

For David and Goliath, we gave a short introduction, acted out the story line, ,and followed it up a short talk on some of the things we can learn from David in the story. Instead of pews, we use round tables and chairs. So we split the room in half – one side representing the Israelites, and the other representing the Philistines. No one knew until the sermon started which table they were seated at, until they turned over the paper telling them which was which. We acted out the skit right in the middle.

As the message started, we handed out small bowls of mini marshmallows and told them not to eat them because they were ‘weapons.’  Our only ringer was Goliath, the rest of the cast we chose as we went along. We used a script found online at ministry-to-children.com   but you could write your own or ad lib if desired. We had a few props, a marshmallow shooter instead of a slingshot (such as this one ). We had an adult help launch the shooter at the right time. We also had a few foam swords, a princess crown, a heavy coat to represent armor.

Here’s what we learned. The skit was a blast! Both the children and the adults loved it. Be prepared for a full marshmallow war to break out, especially if you have carpet!   The foam swords were very distracting so you may want to collect them at the end of the skit. The children had a fun time playing with them, but it was hard to keep preaching over their hilarity. 🙂   The activity created opportunity for parents to discuss trusting in God’s faithfulness and His promises, so it was well worth sweeping up marshmallows!

Click here to read the sermon: Brave David and Goliath sample sermon

 

-Amanda Furbeck

Supermom? Superdad?

Supermom, Superdad, I find that is what I, and a lot of my friends think we need to be.  We try to be everything to everyone all the time.  We have so many expectations that we try to meet.  Most of the time it’s our own expectations!

When you are a special needs parent it is even harder.  You have extra responsibilities and lots more to do to help your child succeed. It’s funny how God can speak to you at 1 am on a road trip . I was listening to Just Be Held by Casting Crowns.  What a comfort to know we don’t have to do it all.  God sees where we are.  He is there.  Let go of expectations.   Let go of frustration.   Let go of what if’s. Just rest in His arms.  Take comfort in knowing you are right were you are supposed to be.  And you are not alone.  He is holding you tight and guiding ever step you take.  My favorite line in the song says your world’s not falling apart it falling into place.

Another song was Dream for You.  I remember what it was like after 9 years of marriage to find out we were expecting.   Oh the excitement!  All the thoughts about what this child would be like!  Would they have my weird toes?  Would they have my husbands sense of humor?  And then the doctor says we have concerns.   Everything changes in a split second.   We had decisions to make.  Our plans suddenly changed.  The song talks about letting God dream for us.  When we are weak He carries us.  He is stronger than we think He is.  He has plans for us (and our children), that we can’t comprehend.

I write all of this because I want you to know, you are not alone.  You don’t need to do it all.  You have a support system to help you.  (And if you don’t have a support system, we would love to be there for you!)  Together with God’s plan we will be strong and do what we thought was impossible.

Jen Maston

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

I know we are all singing the song in our heads now.  In the past week with all the current events happening, I have really been trying to teach my daughter this.  As parents, it is our job to teach and model for our children.  I have seen so much hurt, anger and resentment coming from so many people that it breaks my heart.  I know if it breaks my heart it breaks Gods heart too.    On a road trip, we started discussing the current events in general terms without getting into nasty details with our daughter.  We explained that some people had made some bad choices.  And as we had explained to her before, everyone has a choice whether it is good or bad.  We also reminded her that just because someone makes a bad choice it doesn’t mean that the person is bad, just the choice was.

How does respect play into this?  It is teaching my daughter that even if she disagrees with someone, we still love them.  It is telling her to respect her elders even when they make bad choices.  (She cant understand why Grammy smokes, but even if it is a bad choice we still love her!)  It’s telling her to pray for those who treat her badly.  (A classmate was being mean to her, so we started praying for her to have a change of heart.  About a month later, my daughter came home so excited!  Mommy, our prayers worked!  My classmate was nice and shared some of her lunch with me!)  Nothing is too big or too small to pray for especially where respect is concerned.  I was reminded of this recently.  I was disappointed with how a situation with family had turned out.  Instead of praying for the situation and bringing the hurt to God, I presented resentment for the situation and my daughter jumped on my bandwagon.  I realized I need to set the example and teach her what respect is.

When I deal with special needs parents I have so much respect.  Your job is not easy.  With all the doctors, therapists and numerous services your life is very busy!  Having respect for these people with their differing opinions for what is best for your child is hard.  I pray that you can pray for them, as I pray for each of you.

-Jen Maston

Introducing the Director of Creative Play, Jen

Meet Jen, Director of Creative Play.

What is a Director of Creative Play?  I’m a teacher.  I’m a distraction when need be.  I’m a creative designer who takes play & sensory items and teaches lessons from the Bible.  When you have special needs kids you must think what is going to work best for them.  It can’t be too loud.  Sensory items are valuable assets that can help change the direction that a child will go.  You need time to get wiggles out, without overstimulating them.

Usually working with the pastor, we come up with object lessons that tie into the lesson.  We try to make sure there is a break in the sermon for the object lesson.  This can sometimes be a welcomed distraction that helps refocus.  It also can also be what leaves a lasting impression that helps drive the point of the message to the kids (as well as the adults!)  When we taught on building people up, we had Legos, magnetic blocks and Jenga.  We like to have butcher paper for the kids to be creative while listening to the service.  We have play dough.  We try to have things that will occupy the children’s attention but not overstimulate them.

We get a lot of ideas on Pinterest.  We have had Pinterest wins and Pinterest fails.  (keep an eye out for future posts on this subject.)  We come up with many of the ideas on our own.  Our goal is to help others avoid some of the frustrations and help you succeed in having a thriving special needs ministry.

 

 

A church where everyone belongs.

Are you looking for your church to be a family that accepts everyone,  just as they are, embraces the things that make each person unique, and helps them get to know Jesus? How would you like to provide a worship service where your kids are free to wiggle, dance, skip, color, sing, clap their hands, or sprawl on the floor when they need a little break and you feel refreshed and uplifted?  

 

Because I’m a mom first, and a pastor second. And I’ve got a gaggle of really awesome kids that keep my
heart – and my weekly schedule – amazingly full. I love
spending time at church because it helps me get connected to God and to friends, and it helps me feel refreshed and uplifted so I can face another busy week. But what I really want is to worship in a setting where my kids are just as welcome to participate in the worship service, where they can relax and be a kid and get to know God and make a few friends, too. I’m looking for that church that embraces the things that make us unique, isn’t afraid to accept us just as we are, and helps us get to know Jesus.

Does that sound like the kind of church that would meet your needs?  We would love to help you be that church. And I am really excited to help others grow, and lead, and worship where all people are accepted, valued, and loved. Our team is here for you! Please drop us a line and we’ll be happy to work with you so that you can a church where everyone is welcome, too.

Want to know more about what our church is like? Visit streamsofgrace.org!